What do you do with a Notice to Defend?

Someone reading a Notice to Defend

An example of what a Notice to Defend document looks likeWhen you have been served with a lawsuit in Pennsylvania, one thing that you commonly see on the front page is something that is called a “Notice to Defend.” A Notice to Defend is a one or two page document directed toward the defendant in a civil lawsuit that warns you to respond quickly. It will include information for the bar association’s lawyer referral program, the initial twenty-day deadline to answer and avoid default, and a general warning on the significance of legal proceedings.

The Notice to Defend is required on many legal pleadings in Pennsylvania. It is there to ensure that defendants don’t misunderstand the importance of lawsuits or think that they can ignore it without consequences. If you’ve received a Notice to Defend, you should follow its advice and bring it to a lawyer right away.

So what’s the big deal with these? In short, if you don’t answer, the court will rule against you without a hearing. You will never get the chance to defend yourself if you don’t file the proper response.

A Notice to Defend should be taken very seriously. When you receive a complaint, you have a very limited amount of time to respond, or otherwise, the court will rule against you. Answering the complaint is only the beginning of a long process in civil litigation but is an extremely important part of the process. The answer is what frames the issues that will be decided by a judge or a jury. Failing to raise certain things in your answers means that you will never be allowed to bring them up. Additionally, even something as simple as saying “Denied” in response to someone’s allegation or complaint may ironically mean that you have admitted it under Pennsylvania law.

If you have been served with a complaint and a Notice to Defend, call the experienced civil litigation attorneys at Cornerstone Law Firm for a consultation and to talk about your next steps.